LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The House Committee on Health Policy convened to discuss the 11 bill package known as the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) – seeking to repeal older laws pertaining to abortion. 

Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), a co-sponsor of the bill package said, 

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“When these laws were put into place there was a focus on what politicians had to say, and the fact of the matter is this is a matter for health care, so we have both doctors and patients here, and that is the most important thing, we are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Representative Pohutsky said during the committee hearing. 

She also addressed why these bills are necessary in light of Prop 3 passing last fall. 

“The purpose of this bill package is to make sure that the constitutional right that was enshrined in November’s election is accessible, and safe and affordable to everybody in the state,” Representative Pohutsky added, “A right is not a right if you cannot access it.” 

One of the first speakers testifying in favor of the bill was Michigan Planned Parenthood, Dr. Sarah Wallett, MD and Chief Medical Operating Officer. 

“Planned Parenthood of Michigan cares for approximately 1/3 of all patients seeking abortion care in Michigan,” Dr. Wallett said, “And as a dedicated provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare, we and our patients face unnecessary barriers, stigma, and shame under current Michigan law.” 

Wallett added that it is urgent the legislation be passed to repeal older laws. 

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“These laws include medically unnecessary delays to care and arbitrary waiting periods, there are barriers to funding for abortion providers, limits on insurance coverage, and targeted regulations that were explicitly designed by politicians not medical experts to make it difficult and financially burdensome for patients to access the services that they desperately need,” she said. 

Testifying in a coalition of speakers, Dr. Michelle Monticello spoke against the bill package, sharing her concerns for removing the Informed Consent for abortion procedures. 

“Simply put, this requires that a woman is told in basic terms how the abortion procedure will be performed, the more common complications that can occur from the surgical procedure or from the medications used to complete the abortion and what might be required to correct or fix those complications and what may result in a permanent injury,” Dr. Monticello said during the hearing. 

She added that in 2013 additional protection was added for women which required asking to verify that there was no coercion or force to have an abortion which is considered a form of abuse. 

“In my opinion, providing informed consent and protection against coercion are the minimum standards in providing women with good quality medical care,” Dr. Monticello said, “To do less is unethical. Women in the state of Michigan have a right to know this information in order to make medical decisions for themselves.” 

Representative Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), having served five years in Health Policy, voiced concerns regarding HB 4950, specifically why standards would be removed, especially anything involving surgery. 

“So there is a difference between procedures and surgeries,” Dr. Halley Crissman, representing the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, addressed questions about what an abortion entails. “So there are many clinics that perform biopsies, that perform skin procedures, dental procedures that are office based settings, that are clinical settings. Obviously there are surgeries where we make incisions on people’s abdomens, or other parts of their body that require a surgical facility.” 

“Abortion procedures are not that type of procedure,” Dr. Crissman added. 

Genevieve Marnon, the legislative director of Right to Life Michigan also spoke before the committee, raising questions about why the bills would not have oversight for abortion facilities when other medical facilities don’t regulate themselves. 

“Obviously, we hope that women will make a choice for life, but should she choose abortion, we believe that she has the right to valuable information prior to making that important decision as well as the right to a safe and sanitary clinic,” Marnon said. “No industry is left to regulate itself, repealing these laws allows the abortion industry to operate without transparency, without oversight, and without having to follow the same rules as every other surgical provider in the state.” 

While Chair Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) did not allow for public comment at the end of the meeting, she did announce that the committee is anticipating a vote on the bills next week.